LeWeb London: AirBnB

Joe Gebbia, Co-Founder, Airbnb & Loic Le Meur, Founder, LeWeb

Leweb London 2013 - Day1 morning
Photo by: “Luca Sartoni – http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/”

Joe talked about how he set up, the idea behind it.
It was triggered by a huge conference, filling up the hotels and decided to see if there was a way to connect people to the space in his living room.   They had the concept – Airbed and Breakfast.  We wanted to make it more than a place to sleep, we wanted to cook them breakfast etc.

What advice is there to make yourself available to find ideas?
It’s about connecting new dots in a new and different way.. You need to marry the problem..find something that means something to you. We had to look at ways to pay rent to save apartment. You need to be close enough to connect the dots.

What happened next?
We had the concept. Then we built the website. We showed the apartment. We showed the neighbourhood and provided a guide. The end of the second day, we had the site live. But how did we get the word out?  We emailed the conference. And they sent out to the team and we had it in thw world. We got people emailing. People sent them resumes to convince them to allow them to stay with them. By Day 6, we had people there to share a living room with them.

On Day 7 and then what:
It was a great social experiment. They entered as strangers and left as friends. ANd we made money for the rent. But the social experience was greater.  And then we thought about how we can grow this and give other people this experience.  We found a tech partner. We went off to create the next version  For SXSW, 2008. But it was a failure. The hard cash exchange seemed to put people off. So we started again – so you could pay with card via the service. We got big press – but system failed, we built up the servers. But we weren’t growing, the market and the solution were not connecting. We went to the investors. They did not believe the founding team were right – 2 designers and a coder. They also thought it was risky. We did not get initial investment

Now?
THe business tipped last year. We were doing more internationally last year. We could see the growth and started to connect with the local community. We have teams on the ground.  We think you can’t localise without the local. Tech itself does not work. We run meetups, we connect with the community team to share tips, how to be a great host. People start to help each other out.

In some places it is not legal?
The car was once litigated against. We think it’s time to change. It’s a temp problem and will change

When will you go public?
It’s a misuse of our time now to think about that. We have to grow the community. No, we won’t tell you the revenue. Yes we employ a few hundred people

Are you a threat to the hotels?
Not directly. We are taking the pie and making it bigger. Last year in London, we helped expand the room supply. Let more people come to the city.   Our use cases are also different. Hotels are great for business, we;re not really business travel -only 10%. Also AirBnB often longer stays – eg a month.

What’s next? are you moving to other sectors? What do you think of the sharing economy? Where else will it become big?
When i think about it, it is those that have connect with those that want. It’s about connecting with resources. I imagine it between 2 people, not companies. Think about any resource? It will help unlock resources, there will always be something that people will want to ‘share’.   When you look at the internet. Act 1 was about companies, Act 2, we have a critical mass of people and it’s about connecting them. Act 3 is about the critical mass of people..who trust…and how to you get them offline and connecting that way.  The next big challenge is to design the online and offline transition. THat’s what we are thinking about. How can we simplify the key exchange. How can we reduce friction across the whole trip?

What are some key tips for entrepreneurs?
Marry the problem, empathise with the people. Meet people.

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